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Liberty Steel, part of the global GFG Alliance, further expanded its footprint in the U.S. steel downstream products market with the acquisition of Johnstown Wire Technologies (JWT) in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

A press release notes that JWT is the largest producer of value-added carbon and alloy wire in North America, and that the deal “gives Liberty valuable capacity to manufacture a range of high-value carbon and alloy wire products for multiple end markets including the infrastructure, automotive, utility and consumer sectors.”

The Johnstown plant, described as an advanced manufacturing facility, has some 250 employees, the release said. They will complement Liberty’s melting and rolling operations at Georgetown, South Carolina, and Peoria, Illinois. Combined with its scrap processing plant in Tampa, Florida, the acquisition “will firmly embed the business along the full value chain in the U.S. steel market.”

Liberty Steel entered the U.S. market in 2017 by acquiring ArcelorMittal’s Georgetown Steel mill and followed up with the purchase of Keystone Consolidated Industries, including its flagship Peoria mill, in 2018.

“Today’s announcement marks another major step by Liberty towards its target of quickly becoming a market leader in the American wire rod sector,” the release said. It noted that the 638,000-sq-foot Johnstown site has been a high-profile steel manufacturing facility for more than a century, and that it is a top-three U.S. producer of the types of steel that will be needed to modernize America’s aging infrastructure: CHQ, electro-galvanized, aluminized and spring wire.

JWT currently holds the number one market position in the electro-galvanized and aluminized sectors, the release said. “Liberty Steel intends to drive growth at JWT as the U.S. updates its infrastructure and electricity networks, thereby increasing demand for steel products such as support cables and guard rails for bridges and for electrical power lines.”

With more than half of JWT’s output sold into the transportation market, Liberty is also aiming to capitalize on continued growth in U.S. vehicle production, the release said. It is the third largest producer in the U.S. of CHQ wire, which is used in automotive products such as engine block bolts and brake pad rivets. The acquisition will also add substantially to Liberty’s capability to meet the “Made in America” specifications required for public infrastructure and utility contracts.

“This is another very significant step towards our ambitious U.S. goals,” said GFC Chief Investment Officer Grant Quasha. “JWT is a profitable business with a skilled workforce and tremendous pedigree in the industry, so we look forward to welcoming it into the GFG USA family and helping it build an even stronger future.”

GFG Group Executive Chairman Sanjeev Gupta said that he was thrilled with the deal. “The addition of high-quality specialized facilities at Johnstown further strengthens our existing facilities at Georgetown and Peoria.”

“We are excited to be joining the GFG family of global businesses and see this as a tremendous opportunity to further our position as a leading manufacturer of steel wire in North America,” said Johnstown Wire Technologies President and CEO Jack Miller.

MAC ITS LLC, founded in 1976 as Manufactured Assemblies Corporation (MAC), specializing in manufacturing cable assemblies and wire harnesses, plans to expand its headquarters location in Dayton, Ohio.

Per a report in the Dayton Business Journal, the company is proposing an expansion that would create 79 new jobs. The company, which now also makes kiosks for OEMs, was given a tax incentive for the plan worth about $200,000.

The proposed expansion involves consolidating out-of-state operations into Ohio, which is competing with Georgia and Indiana for the project. Officials says state support will help ensure the project moves forward in Vandalia. MAC also has a location in Buford, Georgia.

Manufactured Assemblies Corp. has grown its presence in the Dayton region. In 2014, the company announced a $1 million project to expand its Vandalia headquarters and add 35 new jobs. The company had 90 employees at the time.

The business has also evolved from its original core products. "In addition to making custom cable assemblies and wire harnesses, MAC has expanded its abilities into a wide range of products including but not limited to kiosks, box builds, panel boards, digital signs and other custom assemblies. MAC has established a reputation as an industry leader in contract manufacturing. We continue to expand and adapt with current technologies, providing outsourced solutions to large and small OEMs, as well as superior service and products with forward-thinking solutions to support every customer need."

Two leading international lubricant manufacturers, Metalube and H.L. Blachford Ltd., announced at Interwire 2019 that they have entered into a North American partnership.

The two companies, which exhibited together, will initially focus on selling Metalube’s high quality, nonferrous copper and aluminum wire drawing lubricants across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
“This is a very exciting time for us,” said H.L. Blachford President Mike Cundari. “We have been working to develop our relationship with Metalube for some years now, and we are delighted with the exceptional quality of the nonferrous lubricants they produce. We look forward to a long and fruitful joint venture.”

H.L. Blachford is a privately owned company, founded in 1921, with production facilities in Canada, the U.S. and England. Its ferrous and nonferrous wire drawing products are sold under the trade name Chemdraw®.

“This partnership is also excellent news for Metalube,” said Metalube Commercial Director Douglas Hunt. “Blachford has a highly established presence in North America, and like us, is a privately owned family business with a similar ethos. They have superb relationships with all of the key nonferrous wire drawing producers in the region and we are highly confident that our products will be very well received here.”

Metalube is part of the Bishopdale Group, a private holding company for a group of industrial lubricants brands that include Metalube, Molyslip and UOP. It exports 95% of its production to over 90 countries worldwide and has offices in Manchester, Dubai, Mumbai, São Paulo and Shanghai. From its headquarters in Irlam, Manchester, the company has a fully integrated lubricant manufacturing facility, including new state-of-the-art laboratories.

Following failed attempts to get a £30 million government loan, British Steel was placed into “compulsory liquidation” on May 22, putting some 4,200 jobs there and 20,000 related positions at risk. Despite the official designation, the company notes at its website that it “continues to trade as normal.”

Per multiple news reports, British Steel had sought further loans from the British government to remain afloat, but did not get it. Instead, the business—which was bought in 2016 for one pound by investment firm Greybull Capital—was placed in liquidation. A government statement said there was no other option, as it “would be unlawful to provide a guarantee or loan to British Steel on the terms of any proposals that the company or any other party has made,” said Business Secretary Greg Clark.

At its website, British Steel, which has a product range that includes wire rod, notes that work continues under the oversight of  the Official Receiver “whilst a sales process is undertaken to find a new owner for our business.” Further, the company’s subsidiaries including British Steel France Rail SAS, FN Steel BV, Redcar Bulk Terminal, The Steel Company of Ireland Limited, TSP Projects Limited and TSP Engineering Limited “are not in insolvency and are continuing to trade as normal.”

Reports said that making steel profitably is particularly difficult in Britain, where steelmakers pay some of the highest green taxes and energy costs in the world and are saddled with high labor costs and business rates. However, a dominant matter remains the continuing uncertainty surrounding Britain’s planned departure from the EU. “The  whole manufacturing sector is crying out for certainty over Brexit, unable to plan the trading relationship it will have with its biggest market. We can only state again the need to avoid a no-deal scenario at all costs,” said a statement from UK Steel.

Jonathan Owens, supply chain and logistics expert at the University of Salford Business School, said that British Steel had been struggling in a very competitive market and that a new government loan may only have delayed the inevitable failure of the company.

In December 2018, the European Commission  suspended the access of British Steel to an EU program for carbon offset credits (ETS) that allowed U.K. exporters to get offset credits, citing the failure of Brexit. The U.K. government provided a large bridge loan to keep British Steel solvent, but uncertainty has hurt orders from outside the U.K. as overseas customers do not know what tariffs will apply. British Steel needs the additional funds to enable it to continue until a Brexit deal passes that can provide customers confidence as to what will happen.

Per a report in The Guardian, in 1971 the British steel industry employed 323,000 people, and that same number is now estimated at 31,900. At press time, dozens of potential buyers for British Steel have been identified.

The U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) has imposed new duties of up to 63% on some Chinese aluminum wire and cable imports because of what was described as “price-dumping.”

Per a cited DoC statement, “(DoC) announced the affirmative preliminary determination in the antidumping duty (AD) investigation of imports of aluminum wire and cable from China, finding that exporters from China have dumped aluminum wire and cable in the United States at a margin of 58.51 to 63.47 percent."

Encore Wire Chairman, President and CEO Daniel Jones welcomed the decision, noting that, "These illegal trade practices have undermined our investments in aluminum wire production, which is an important complement to our market-leading copper wire business." 

A fact sheet accompanying the notice reported that U.S. imports of aluminum wire and cable from China were valued at more than $157 million in 2017. U.S. customs and border agents will begin collecting cash deposits from importers of these products at the same rates to offset unfair Chinese subsidies, the Commerce Department said.

The Trump administration, reports said, has initiated 168 investigations of unfair trade practices since taking office, more than double the number during a comparable period of the previous administration, according to the release.

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